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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Courts 'to decide' Tube future
Tube trains
The future of the tube could be decided in court
Transport for London has lodged papers in the High Court challenging the government's plans to part-privatise the Tube.

The move follows months of on-off negotiations between London transport supremo Bob Kiley and government officials over the future of the Tube, which ended in deadlock last week.


All this is doing is delaying much-needed improvements on the Tube

Government spokesman
Mr Kiley is seeking to stop ministers from selling off parts of London Underground through a judicial review in the High Court.

The case could be heard later this month.

Mr Kiley has rejected the government's proposals, saying they are too expensive and could undermine Tube safety.

His move has been threatened for months as negotiations with ministers continued.

He delayed launching the action on Monday after the government lodged a last-ditch response to his alternative proposals late on Friday.

Legal obligation

But a spokeswoman for Transport for London (TfL) confirmed that the papers have now been lodged with the High Court.

TfL lawyers are expected to argue that by splitting maintenance and management the government's public private partnership (PPP) will put lives at risk.

They will also try to show it is more expensive than alternative options and breaches a legal obligation to allow Mayor Ken Livingstone to promote a "safe, integrated, efficient and economic" transport system.

If the review is allowed, lawyers believe a date for the hearing will be confirmed by 23 April, with 30 April remaining the most likely date for it to begin.

London transport commissioner Bob Kiley
Mr Kiley wants day-to-day control of the Tube
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said the legal move was "regrettable".

"Mr Kiley walked away from an excellent deal. All this is doing is delaying much-needed improvements on the Tube."

Negotiations stalled last week after ministers refused to accept Mr Kiley's key demand to have control of day-to-day management of the system.

Under the government's plans, responsibility for tracks, signalling and tunnels would be carved up between three private sector companies.

Despite their last ditch attempt to respond to Mr Kiley's demands and a call from the Conservatives "to do business" with him ministers talked tough over the weekend.

Transport Minister Lord Macdonald criticised the transport commissioner saying: "He wants it all his own way."

'Door never closed'

But Mr Kiley had been hopeful the deadlock could be resolved without the courts.

Speaking on Sunday, he said: "As far as I am concerned the door is never closed on talks.

"Legal action - lawsuits - are more often settled than seen through to the final adjudication."

Mr Kiley said the dispute could be settled "in days not weeks" if the government was ready to make genuine compromises.

Tory transport spokesman Bernard Jenkin said ministers would have to compromise "sooner or later".

"Every week's delay is another week of chaos for commuters," he said.

'Knuckleheads'

Meanwhile, Mr Livingstone has been asked to stop making "unwarranted, abusive" attacks on London Underground management.

The Mayor has variously described Tube managers as "knuckleheads" and "dullards", and has spoken openly of his intention to sack many of them.

Now Derek Smith, managing director of LU, has written to Mr Livingstone expressing concern that his comments are having "a disruptive and unsettling effect on morale in the company."

But Mr Livingstone said safety on the Underground was a "real risk", and that the situation facing Tube travellers was getting worse every month.

"The public has appointed me to make a difference."

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See also:

02 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Tube court battle delayed
29 Mar 01 | UK Politics
MPs demand Tube statement
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
New attack launched in Tube battle
27 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Legal challenge to Tube plans
26 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Prescott tries to restart tube talks
06 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Tube passengers 'at risk'
02 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Mayor warns of Tube plan deaths
26 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Ministers to discuss Tube crisis
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